Jerking Our Chains

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Obama Administration

In the wake of another horrific beheading there are calls to punish ISIS, which kind of ignores the fact that we’d already been punishing ISIS.

Over the past month, the U.S. military has launched more than 100 air strikes against ISIS targets in northern Iraq. While U.S. officials have publicly justified the attacks on humanitarian grounds—as well as protecting U.S. interests—they also have obliterated dozens of ISIS vehicles and checkpoints, and those manning them.

There is no way ISIS can counter U.S. air strikes. It has no air force and apparently has few, if any, anti-aircraft weapons. Its ground forces, once identified, are easy targets for American laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles.

So they’re beheading captured journalists because that’s all they can do. This is a terrible thing, but getting a rise out of us is what they want, and pushing us into some ham-handed retaliation would enhance their status as a terrorist organization. Which is why we would be wise to not let ISIS jerk our chains.

See also How America Made ISIS by Tom Engelhardt.

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Creatures of Myth

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economy

Human behavior makes a lot more sense when you appreciate that none of us are entirely rational. In fact, I’d go so far to say that for most of us rational thinking accounts for very little of our views and opinions about anything. Most of us live inside any number of personal and collective myths that inform us who we are and how the world is supposed to work, and it can be damn near impossible to dispel the myths even with clear and irrefutable facts and data.

This has little to do with IQ, as it’s not at all unusual even for bright people to cling to beliefs that are measurably out of sorts with the real world. As I wrote in my book, to be a reasonably rational person you must first admit to your own irrationality. If you can’t do that, you will remain at the mercy of the various goblins, trolls and pixies in your head.

Paul Krugman — in my judgment, more rational than most people — has a blog post up now called Inflation, Septaphobia, and the Shock Doctrine in which he struggles to understand why allegedly Wise Men (and it is mostly men) guiding the world’s economies are such a pack of idiots.

The bad news from Europe is a reminder that the basic insight some of us have been trying to convey, mostly in vain, ever since 2008 remains valid: the great danger facing advanced economies is that governments and central banks will do too little, not too much. The risk of elevated inflation or fiscal difficulties is dwarfed by the risk of ending up trapped in a deflationary vortex. This view has been overwhelmingly supported by recent experience — if you acted on what they were saying on CNBC or the WSJ editorial page, you would have lost a lot of money. Yet the power of the hard money/fiscal austerity orthodoxy (yes, market monetarists want one without the other, but they have no constituency) remains immense. Why?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Along with charts and graphs showing that the hard money/fiscal austerity orthodoxy is just plain wrong, Krugman speculates a bit about what kind of mythology is driving it. The word septaphobia means “fear of the seventies,” btw, referring to the fact that the 1970s were marked by inflation and were a bad time for investors. The Wise Men may be running hysterically from the ghosts of the 1970s — ghosts haunting their own heads — and ignoring the very different real-world beasts that are the cause of today’s economic problems.

Thomas Frank has an article up at Salon called The 1 percent’s long con: Jim Cramer, the Tea Party’s roots, and Wall Street’s demented, decades-long scheme. As the title suggests this is a lot about how the 1 percent manipulates the world to benefit themselves. But if you read between the lines a bit, this article is also about myths and the way Wall Street portrayed itself in the 1990s as the true friends of Everyman and as shamans of a kind of economic democracy that was more fair and egalitarian than governmental-type democracy.  This is an excerpt from a book, and while I don’t know where Frank goes with this next one suspects he discusses the self-delusions that gave us the financial meltdown of 2008. But it also suggests that the New Deal was still looming in the personal myths even of people too young to remember the FDR Administration.

And there were incredible prizes to be won as long as the bubble continued to swell, as long as the fiction of Wall Street as an alternative to democratic government became more and more plausible. Maybe the Glass-Steagall act could finally be repealed; maybe the SEC could finally be grounded; maybe antitrust could finally be halted. And, most enticingly of all, maybe Social Security could finally be “privatized” in accordance with the right-wing fantasy of long standing. True, it would be a staggering historical reversal for Democrats to consider such a scheme, but actually seeing it through would require an even more substantial change of image on Wall Street’s part. The financiers would have to convince the nation that they were worthy of the charge, that they were as public-minded and as considerate of the little fellow as Franklin Roosevelt himself had been. Although one mutual fund company actually attempted this directly—showing footage of FDR signing the Social Security Act in 1935 and proclaiming, “Today, we’re picking up where he left off”—most chose a warmer, vaguer route, showing us heroic tableaux of hardy midwesterners buying and holding amidst the Nebraska corn, of World War II vets day-trading from their suburban rec-rooms, of athletes talking like insiders, of church ladies phoning in their questions for the commentator on CNBC; of mom and pop posting their very own fire-breathing defenses of Microsoft on the boards at Raging Bull. This was a boom driven by democracy itself, a boom of infinite possibilities, a boom that could never end.

We can always debate how much of this the Captains of Finance actually believed themselves, and how much of it was PR, but I think the financial crisis showed us they really were not behaving rationally at all. They became convinced they were immortal; that bullets would not kill them; that whatever they did was blessed because they were doing it. Greed was driving a lot of this myth, of course. I don’t doubt those who survived the meltdown still believe this, and why wouldn’t they? The government protects them from having to face their own mortality.

More to the point, as Krugman says, sometimes these myths actually are not supporting their own long-term financial health in any rational way.

And this crew of mostly Asuras are ultimately the ones responsible for the fiscal austerity orthodoxy, possibly because in their mythical world somebody should suffer for the setbacks of the 2000s, but it shouldn’t have to be them.

Postscript — one more thing — whenever I cite Krugman for anything I can count on somebody, somewhere, snorting at me that Krugman is an idiot and Krugman is always wrong. But if pushed, such people can never explain coherently what he has been wrong about. Push harder, and it becomes clear that Krugman is “wrong” because he disagrees with the orthodoxies and the myths, not because what he writes is frequently proven untrue. It isn’t, actually.

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The Bad News About the Good News

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Obama Administration

Paul Krugman is almost giddy about new Medicare numbers.

Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.

$1,000 less per beneficiary than projected just four years ago?Wow.

You’ll remember a few years ago the entire Right was marching around chanting that Medicare and Social Security were about to go broke (still one of my favorite posts). It was never true about Social Security but there was real concern about Medicare. But last I heard Medicare’s sell-by date had been pushed way into the future. There is no looming Medicare worry.

First, our supposed fiscal crisis has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely. The federal government is still running deficits, but they’re way down. …

… Second, the slowdown in Medicare helps refute one common explanation of the health-cost slowdown: that it’s mainly the product of a depressed economy, and that spending will surge again once the economy recovers. That could explain low private spending, but Medicare is a government program, and shouldn’t be affected by the recession. In other words, the good news on health costs is for real.

Krugman goes on to say that a lot of these savings are the result of Obamacare, and this shows us that providing health care for all Americans — as other industrialized nations somehow manage to do for their citizens — is not an impossible dream that will drive the country into fiscal ruin.

This takes me to the bad news — about the only people who are going to hear about this are us progressives. Not only will most Americans continue to be unaware of it; the Right will continue to push the idea that the only way to save Medicare is to cut it, or privatize it, or raise the eligibility age to 90, or whatever. And at the same time they’ll tell voters that Obama cut money from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Because that’s how we roll.

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Attitude Adjustments and Police

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criminal justice

It’s a beautiful day in the Mahaneighborhood, and this morning I walked to the salon down the street for a long-overdue haircut.  And while I was there I listened to a salon full of middle-class mostly white and Latina ladies talk about an accident someone had had recently.  A speeding cop car, no siren, had struck the car of one of the ladies’ friends, shoving the car some distance and spinning it around. The friend was injured, although she will recover.

One woman in the salon saw the whole thing. And then she watched while the cops canvassed the neighborhood looking for people who would swear they heard the siren going, even though it wasn’t. They were building a case to exonerate the cop, not investigating what happened. And the interesting part of this, to me, was that all of these middle-class mostly white and Latina ladies agreed that the police were out of control and couldn’t be trusted.

I realize that a big chunk of the white middle class will still automatically side with cops. And I realize I have only anecdotal evidence that anything has changed. But I do think I’m seeing some shift in attitude toward the police around here on the part of white people, especially compared to the glory days of Mayor Giuliani back in the 1990s.

Not a day goes by I don’t see two or three fresh examples of police overreach from all around America. Today’s outrage, btw, is about the arrest of a black man sitting in a public space waiting for his children to be let out of school.

Of course, lots of people in social and news media are still trying to spin events in Ferguson to exonerate Officer Wilson. The standard trajectory of these arguments is that we shouldn’t rush to judgment regarding Wilson (agree) and, anyway, Michael Brown was a thug who had just robbed a convenience store and Wilson didn’t have a choice but to shoot him. Um, who’s rushing to judgment, again?

All kinds of stuff could have happened in Ferguson, but the only facts everyone seems to agree on is that two young and unarmed black men were walking in the street of their own residential neighborhood, had an encounter with Officer Wilson, and somehow this escalated into a shooting that killed one of the young men, which is self-evidently screwy. Beyond that, the police have one story and eyewitnesses have another.

Even if Wilson is exonerated of blame for the shooting, seems to me he’s still got some ‘splainin’ to do about why a jaywalking incident got  so out of control.  Whatever happened at the convenience store — which is not entirely clear —  is a red herring. The store owner made no complaint to police; Wilson could not have known about it.

The other part of this story that is beyond dispute is that since the shooting Ferguson and Saint Louis police have behaved horribly. They’ve put every possible foot wrong. See, for example, Michael Brown’s Body and Michael Brown’s Mom Laid Flowers Where He Was Shot — and Police Crushed Them. Since justice will likely be determined by forensics I sincerely hope the Justice Department at least keeps an eye on this, because if the investigation and possible prosecution are left to the local crew, they might as well not bother. Yeah, okay, #notallcops but it’s sure as heck #alotofcops.

What a change camera phones have made, eh? U.S. police departments need to realize the days when they could get away with whatever are coming to a close. Time for an attitude adjustment, folks.

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Sometimes Guns Do Kill People, Actually

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firearms

This story is a genuine tragedy, but it also must be filed under WTF was this guy thinking?

A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her side, trying to guide her. A video of the shooting, which her parents recorded by cellphone, suggests that the girl, in pink shorts and with a braided ponytail, was unable to control the gun’s recoil; the instructor, Charles Vacca, 39, was rushed to a hospital in Las Vegas, where he died Monday night.

The parents turned the cellphone video over to the sheriff’s department, which released it publicly. As they spread online and on television, the images of a small girl losing control of a powerful war weapon during a family vacation created a worldwide spectacle, prompting some commentators to castigate parents who would put a submachine gun in the hands of a child.

The Times has the video, if you want to watch, and the 9-year-old girl is quite small, as one would expect. I assume the weapons instructor could have refused to allow the child to fire an Uzi, although the article said that the parents were knowledgeable about guns. Anyone with any knowledge of firearms ought to have realized that the recoil on an automatic submachine gun would have been too much recoil for a 9-year-old girl to control.

In the video, the girl, whose name has not been released, positioned herself before the target at an outdoor shooting range in this outpost in the Mojave Desert — one leg in front of the other, torso turned to the left, hands clutched around the grip of the Uzi, which appeared compact and light enough for her age and small build. When the girl fired her first shot, a puff of dust rose as the bullet hit the knoll behind the target. Mr. Vacca let out a celebratory “all right,” and then shifted the gun to fully automatic mode. She again pulled the trigger, but could not hold the gun straight as bullets came flying out at a rate of 600 rounds per minute.

A man is dead, and that poor child has to live with that memory.

News flash: 9-year-old girls are not famous for their upper body strength. I remember probably being about 12 and at Girl Scout camp, and being taught to shoot a .22 caliber rifle, which I guess is about as tame as rifles get. Even then we girls were all taught to shoot in a supported prone position so that we we were not trying to bear all the weight of the rifle and control the recoil at the same time. And it wasn’t that hard, but it was a flippin’ .22. And we took turns firing just one round.

The thing is, gun “enthusiasts” are always trying to say they know what they are doing around firearms and we should trust them, but then something like this happens. And then they wonder why we’re so nervous about seeing men with assault weapons standing in line for fast food. Because time and time again we see that at least some of these guys don’t have the sense to put the sock on before the shoe. Seriously.

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We Are All Not Libertarians Now

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Libertarians

Lots of talk lately about a “libertarian moment.” However, it appears there may be few actual libertarians to have a “moment.”

A Pew Survey found that about 11 percent of Americans are libertarian, meaning they call themselves libertarian and know what the word means. However, among this group there were huge inconsistencies in their opinions, and on the whole their ideas about government policy are not significantly different from the views commonly held by a lot of other Americans.

And that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of people are libertarian but don’t know it. It means that libertarians don’t automatically endorse libertarian views. About four in ten libertarians said that government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest (41%). Others also said government assistance to the poor “does more good than harm because people can’t get out of poverty until their basic needs are met” (38%). Further,

…there are only slight differences between libertarians and the public in views of the acceptability of homosexuality. And they are about as likely as others to favor allowing the police “to stop and search anyone who fits the general description of a crime suspect” (42% of libertarians, 41% of the public). … Libertarianism is generally associated with a less activist foreign policy, yet a greater share of self-described libertarians (43%) than the public (35%) think “it is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs.”

These are the ones who correctly defined libertarianism, mind you.

I wrote a few days ago that there seems to be more faux than actual libertarianism floating around. And I have also observed that it’s something of a party game for libertarians to denounce anyone in the public eye associated with them as a fake. The difference between the fake and the true libertarian is an elusive thing that defies measuring, however.

See also Pew: What If The Libertarian Movement Doesn’t Really Exist?

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Ferguson: Same Old Trajectory

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Stupid Violent Things

I want to add to yesterday’s post that events in Ferguson appear to be following a standard trajectory. The immediate impetus after such an apparent act of brutality is for the Powers That Be to go into “nothing to see here, move along” mode. When the community and many others rallied and asked for justice, and the PTB realized they weren’t going to get away with burying the incident, they went into their standard alternate modes of (1) demonizing the victim by trying to claim he had just robbed a convenience store, for example, although I don’t believe he did, and I understand the owner of the store didn’t file a police report, and there is no way Officer Wilson would have known about the convenience store, and anyway the convenience store episode may not have happened on the same day; many things are not clear.

And then there’s (2) making excuses for the cop. By now it has been thoroughly proven that the eye socket injury didn’t happen. Now we see white supporters of Officer Wilson claiming the shooting was a “good kill.” WTF? Based on what evidence we actually have — no, it was not.

I fully support the opinion that we should not declare Officer Wilson guilty of anything before he has had his day in court. There may be evidence that hasn’t come into public view that will shed a different light on things. But based on everything even partly substantiated has been made public, this was an utterly unnecessary slaughter of an unarmed young man who hadn’t been found guilty of anything, either.

This trajectory of events is so standard it’s nearly become ritual. Next time we could appoint Kabuki actors to play it out for us.

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What We Don’t See

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abortion, big picture stuff, Social Issues, Women's Issues

Of all the conceits common to humankind possibly the most insidious is that any of us are entirely rational. And often the most irrational people are those who brag about how rational they are.

Even if a person’s basic reasoning skills are sound, the outcome of his reasoning nearly always will be imperfect. That’s because nearly all of us “live” within limited conceptual frameworks that filter and sort information in artificial ways. The way we conceptually interface with reality is based partly on our own experience and partly on how we are culturally conditioned to understand things.  And most of us are blind to this, because if we and everyone we know is artificially filtering and sorting information in pretty much the same way, we assume our understanding of reality is the only possible one.

(I wrote quite a lot about this in my book, by the way, explaining the way our limited conceptual frameworks have impacted religion and have largely rendered it ridiculous, but it doesn’t have to be that way.)

Breaking out of the conceptual box we live in usually takes some extraordinary experience — and often a shocking one — to see that we’re living in an artificial world and that the “real” one outside the limits of our awareness is largely alien to us. And most of us amble through life without ever having that experience.

Even though few of us ever perceive that we’re living inside a conceptual box, if we run into people whose conceptual boxes are very different from ours we think those people just don’t understand the real world (meaning our “real world”). I could define maturity, even wisdom, as the ability to appreciate  and respect that other people’s “worlds” are just as valid as ours even if they are wildly different. I wrote a few years ago,

My view is that everything we think comes from a complex of psychological discriminations and impulses, little of which have anything to do with “logic.” The way we understand ourselves and the world begins to be shaped from the moment we’re born and continues to be shaped by the culture we grow up and live in. In other words, all of our understandings are biased. This is pervasive and inescapable. Often the difference between “logical” and “empathic” people is that an “empathic” person has at least a dim appreciation of his own biases, whereas a “logical” person is utterly oblivious to them. …

… Our conscious, cognitive understandings of things are based on internalized models of what we’ve been conditioned to believe is “normal.” We may be able to articulate our ideas and perceptions in a coolly logical way, but the process by which we arrive at our ideas and perception is “complex, unconscious and emotional.” This is always true, whether we want to admit it or not. …

… Generally being “fair” is not losing one’s biases, but perceiving one’s biases as biases. If you recognize your biases as biases, you are in a position to overrule them as the facts dictate. But if you are so unconscious of yourself that you don’t recognize your biases as biases, then your “thinking” generally amounts to casting around for support for your biases. Then you put the biases and the cobbled-together “support” together and call it “reason.”

And this takes me to what we don’t see. I’ve written before about the “default norm” syndrome, also called the invisible baseline fallacy, which in our culture means white maledom is the default norm, and perspectives and experiences that deviate from those common to white men are not respected as legitimate. If you are a woman or racial minority in this country you have bumped into this iron wall of assumption many times, but the iron wall is invisible to a lot of white men. Not all, thank goodness.

This is basically the same thing that people are calling “male privilege” or “white privilege,” although I don’t like those terms. The degree to which one’s assumptions, biases and experiences are “privileged” depends on a complex of factors that include health or physical condition, class, and wealth. A white male lower-income paraplegic is considerably less “privileged” than the Koch brothers, for example. As wealth inequality becomes more extreme a whole lot of white people are being left behind to a degree I believe is unprecedented in American history, and I assure you most of these people don’t feel all that “privileged.”

Money is privilege. People who have always been financially comfortable have no idea how much lack of money can be an obstacle to basic functionality in our society. The poor are taxed in myriad ways, from paying higher bank account fees on their meager balances — causing the very poor to not use banks at all, but then one must use check cashing services that also take a bite. Without a car you take public transportation, which eats a lot more time out of your day. And if you don’t have money for a bus you simply don’t go anywhere out of walking distance, which puts a huge limit on your job opportunities. Those left out of Medicaid expansion still have limited access to health care, and chronic, debilitating conditions often go untreated. Poor parents often are caught in the day care trap — they aren’t paid enough to afford reliable day care, but without that it’s hard to hold a job at all. So one is perpetually making seat-of-the-pants arrangements with people to watch the children, and then worrying if the kids are safe. Etc. etc. Many conveniences people with money take for granted are not available to the poor, and the inconveniences pile up and make day-to-day life an exhausting exercise in barely coping.

And then it is assumed the poor can’t get ahead because they are lazy. And it is just about impossible to explain the problem to someone who has been cocooned from it. It’s not part of his, or her, experience; therefore, it isn’t “real.”

As a woman I am sometimes surprised at how much even liberal men are oblivious to the extreme misogyny that still lingers in our culture. I wrote earlier this year,

Even those of us who have never experienced physical assault have experienced sexual intimidation, belittling and humiliation, aimed at us only because of our gender. And most of the time we put up with it, because what else can we do? Confronting some sexist bozo could turn an unpleasant situation into something genuinely dangerous. So how has the political Right responded to #YesAllWomen? Mostly with more belittling. Charles Cooke at NRO, for example, dismisses the social media phenomenon as “groupthink.” We women can’t possibly know our own experiences, apparently, and simply imagine misogyny because we’ve read about it.

Especially to conservatives, problems that middle- and upper-income white men rarely if ever encounter are not “real” issues worthy of being addressed by society or government, but are exceptions that the individuals affected must take care of on their own. The fact that these issues may impact all of us, directly or indirectly, and that the cause may be widespread cultural and institutional bias that upper-income whites feed on a daily basis, is invisible to them.  And you can’t explain it to them. No amount of real-world data or well-constructed logic makes dent in the iron wall. If it doesn’t conform to the conceptual box they live in, it can’t be true.

This is why it is good to have diversity of experience represented in decision-making bodies such as governments, for example. White men like to tell themselves they can make decisions that affect everybody else just fine because they will apply reason. But their reason is based on biased perspectives that fail to take many things into account. Publius provides a good example here — many rape laws used to require a woman to show she had resisted an assault to prove she had not consented. But this is a male-centric view. A woman understands that if she is being assaulted by a violent man much stronger than she is, her only hope of surviving may be in not resisting. (I remember a bitter joke from many years ago that the only woman almost certain to win a rape case is a dead nun.)

And don’t get me started on reproductive issues. Just a few days ago I was told I was too emotional because I passionately disagreed that abortion must be criminalized. Naturally it was a man, who will never be pregnant, who said this. Yes it’s easier to be emotionally detached from a issue when it’s not personal, and when the real-world experiences and consequences of that issue are merely hypothetical. It’s easier to be emotionally detached when you’re behind the iron wall.

Michael Brown is being buried today. If his killing, and what we’ve learned about Ferguson, hasn’t given us a clear picture of the evils and pervasiveness of institutional racism I don’t know what else will. Yet just last week I encountered a forum populated largely by white men who couldn’t understand why people are always going on about race. Why is race such a big deal? Isn’t it  all about making white men feel guilty?

But I certainly don’t give a rodent’s posterior whether anybody feels guilty. Guilt doesn’t so much as butter toast. Our country is becoming increasingly dysfunctional, in part because our institutions, especially government, increasingly reflect the views of only the most sheltered and privileged among us. And it is increasingly unresponsive to everyone else. And, weirdly, a big chunk of the population being left behind still clings to the cognitive biases that support policies that are hurting them.  Their collective conceptual frameworks are not adjusting; they still can’t see past the iron wall.

See also: Andrew O’Hehir, “White Privilege: An Insidious Virus That’s Eating America from Within.”

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Dumb and Wealthy

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Obama Administration

Charles Murray’s book The Bell Curve argued, I’m told, that America’s wealthy upper class naturally accrues money but it is smarter, thereby proving any idiot can write a book. But how is it, then, that so many wealthy people are so stupid?

Case in point: Chicago Cubs owner and CEO Thomas Ricketts. Earlier this week a heavy rain interrupted a game, and the ground crew at Wrigley Field were unable to cover the field with a tarp, and the game was called. The reason the crew failed is that there weren’t nearly enough of them present to do the job. And the reason for that is that Cubs management decided to save money by limiting the number of hours the grounds crew could work so that the Cubs didn’t have to pay for health insurance or be penalized.

Cheap,” said one of three high-ranking officials from other organizations the Sun-Times contacted Thursday – all of whom fall below the Cubs on Forbes’ annual revenues list.

Speaking to the industry standard for grounds crew staffing, all three officials said the video of Tuesday’s incident showed an apparently “undermanned” crew (of 15 pulling the tarp on the night’s first unsuccessful try).

“Embarrassing,” said one, “and they got caught.”

Also, too:

A spokesman for the Cubs, which are reportedly worth $1 billion and were the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, didn’t refute the claims when asked by the Sun-Times, but he denied personnel changes were responsible for the field tarp incident.

I guess one could argue you’ve got to be pretty smart to make the Cubbies the most profitable team in baseball in 2013, but they also came in last in the National League Central Division in 2013. In fact, the Cubbies were the only National League Central Division team that had a losing record at home in 2013. They were third from the bottom in the entire National League in 2013. It looks like they’re third from the bottom of the National League standings right now. Obviously, management keeps profits up by under-investing in the product.

Yeah, I know, it’s the Cubbies; they take pride in being losers. I don’t know why Chicago puts up with this, though. Eric Loomis:

The only problem with the Cubs enduring another 100+ years of failure is that it gives their fans a meme to organize around. Would another deserved 100 years help or make the franchise and its fans even more annoying, if that’s possible?

OK, so maybe it’s not Chicago Cubs management that’s dumb.

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No, Ferguson Is Not a Libertarian Moment

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conservatism, Libertarians

Libertarians are a hopeful crew, always looking eagerly for their moment that never comes. Now Nick Gillespie in The Daily Beast argues that the outrage at police brutality in Ferguson is a “libertarian moment” because libertarians have been warning us about the evils of police militarization and overreach, largely as part of the war on drugs.

And that’s true; a number of libertarians have been bringing up this issue for awhile. This is also a liberal issue, but one could argue liberals have been less vocal about it, possibly because we identify other issues (such as racism) as taking up more of our attention. But this brings me to the first reason Ferguson is not a libertarian moment — libertarians have no response to racism. And it’s undeniable that racism is at the rotten core of what happened in Ferguson. Libertarians like to pretend racism doesn’t happen, or if they acknowledge it, they do so only in passing (see Rand Paul). And then the next week they’ll turn around and say they don’t support civil rights laws, because big government.

And I feel compelled to acknowledge that many pure libertarians do not acknowledge Paul to be one of them, but as I have said elsewhere, pure libertarians are elusive critters who are seldom spotted, and even then as soon as they open their mouths and take any real-world positions on anything they are found wanting. Pure libertarianism must be like a hot-house orchid that must be kept in isolated and pristine conditions and wilts as soon as you buy it and take it home.

The other reason Ferguson is not a libertarian moment is that it illustrates an important liberal principle that often libertarians deny — sometimes the worst oppression is local, in which case citizens need to look to the federal government for remedy.  And, frankly nothing in Ferguson is likely to change unless the Justice Department gets involved.

Over the past few days spokespeople for libertarianism have argued they do so care about state and local government overreach, too. But I’ve had this argument with self-identified libertarians (although not pure ones, obviously) too many times. Many of them are sincerely more supportive of state’s rights than they are of individual citizens exercising their civil liberties. And it’s too obvious to me that the modern libertarian movement was born during the desegregation and civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 1960s, when federal courts and lawmakers and sometimes Presidents forced state and local governments to extend equal rights and protections to African Americans.

That said, Beverly Mann at Angry Bear wrote a great analysis arguing that many of our self-identified libertarians are not libertarians in any but a down-the-rabbit-hole sense. This pseudo libertarianism is “a narrowly prescriptive ideology that adopts extreme economic libertarianism and certain aspects of fascism,” she writes.

It is a curious brand of fascism that is peculiarly American, in that it artificially distinguishes between federal powers and state and local ones. A veritable foundation of this ideology formally or tacitly authorizes the use of state and local government police powers—by police, prosecutors, judges, prison guards–to engage in wholesale violations of American constitutional and international human rights. …

…What most of this crowd actually is is sort of classic-fascist-light, not libertarian. By which I don’t mean that they’re Nazis; Nazism was (and is) only one brand of fascism. I mean fascism more along the lines of the Benito Mussolini or Francisco Franco variety—a pairing of a muscular state police force left to its own (and the dictator’s) devices, and moneyed interests whose support the dictator an his party needed. Modern U.S. neo-federalism, a.k.a. “states’ rights!”–i.e., the right of state and local government officials and employees to violate individual, non-Republican humans’ constitutional rights—is libertarianism only in a George-Orwell-comes-to-Madison-Avenue sense, but it underpins much of Tea Party/Supreme Court libertarianism, if only ostensibly.

Do read the whole thing. But when the organs that claim to speak for libertarianism often are largely sponsored by the Koch brothers, what is one to think? Where in America is this pure and not corporate sponsored libertarianism found, unless you go full la-la and point to the Bundy Ranch militia?

And for years we’ve been dealing with conservatism that isn’t the least bit conservative. Richard Hofstadter’s pseudo conservatives took over American conservatism and drove traditional conservatism out of the movement some time back. And now we’ve got this weird coalition of pseudo conservatives and pseudo libertarians making up the dominant political power in this country. And if this is what we’re calling libertarianism, they’ve been having their moment for quite some time.

But if there are some pure libertarians out there who actually care about real individual freedom and the rights of unarmed black men to walk down a street in their own neighborhood without being killed by police, I sincerely apologize for making fun of you. But do take care if you leave the hot house.

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